You Make My Heart Glow

You Make My Heart Glow - Under the Monkey Bars blog

YOU GUYS make my heart glow. For real! Thank you for being here and joining me on this blogging journey. I’m seriously beyond grateful. Will you be my Valentine?

The monkeys gave their school friends these super cute glow stick valentines. Our local print shop printed and cut the valentines, making it really easy this year. I ordered way too many glow sticks, but I’m sure we’ll use them for dance parties. I got the idea for glow stick valentines on Pinterest from Delia Creates. Never too early to collect ideas for next year, right? 

Homemade valentines are our family tradition. Don and I gave up on flowers and gifts years ago. I’d much rather give and receive simple homemade valentines and be with my loves than anything else. I sometimes cheat and cut up a few store bought or recycled cards. Another one of my Mommy short cuts. Shhhh! Don’t tell.

Bean wrote this poem for a heart themed poetry contest this month: 

Whenever I look at the night sky,
I see a little star-heart.
Blinking, winking, shining.
Smiling right at me.
For me.
With me.
My star.
My home away from home.
My anchor.
My heavenly friend.
I twirl and bloom under the
Protection of my heart.

Words can’t describe how proud I am of my strong, creative 10-year old. Her writing skills have really blossomed this year. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for this little lady. 

What are you up to this chilly February 14th? We’re in Stowe for the week with plans for a cozy family pajama day today. Don’s going to stoke a roaring fire while we read books and play games together. No cooking for me tonight! We have a reservation at one of our favorite restaurants here in Stowe: Idletyme (owned by Chef Michael Kloeti of Michael’s on the Hill).  Fantastic prices for farm to table food — and they are extra attentive with food allergies. 

I’m super excited for a vacation with my monkeys. It’s been a rough couple of weeks for us with my Lyme symptoms starting up again. February vacation came just at the right time. Thank you Massachusetts 🙂 

Happy Valentine’s Day! Hope your day is filled with sweetness and love.

Choose Gratitude

Choose Gratitude - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

November plants the seed of thanks in our minds because of Thanksgiving. It’s easy to say, “thank you” and be thankful for all of the goodness around us. But let’s go a little deeper this month and be grateful.

Gratitude is a way of being that’s different from giving thanks in one fleeting moment. It’s recognizing the importance of a source of happiness and then showing deep appreciation for it. Gratitude becomes a state of mind when you are openly conscious of it and embrace it.

You might be reading this thinking, “What a bunch of hippy dippy baloney” (from the Lego Movie, hee he). It’s not.

There’s science behind it, specifically as a facet of positive psychology. Studies show that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude, increasing our well-being and happiness. So if gratitude can make us happier and healthier, why not incorporate it into our lives every day?

Take a second to absorb this quote from British psychologist Robert Holden:

The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become.

Being present is a concept that comes up often in yoga class. What does it mean to be present? It means to bring awareness to your thoughts and actions in the moment. To me, being present means that I put my phone away along with other distractions as many times a day as possible to really BE with the people I love. Whether it’s reading a book with my daughters after school or making plans to have tea with a friend, it’s so important to be where you are in both body and mind — without your mind drifting off.

To be present during the holiday season takes it up a notch. There is so much to do and so little time. How can we be more grateful and mindful during the holiday season? Start by simplifying your list. So many of us (myself included) go overboard with the consumerism of shopping and gifts during the holidays. Less is more, and time together is even better. Make gifts together as a family. Fill the calendar with quality time among friends and family instead of To-Do’s. While you’re there, listen and really connect without running your list through your head. Be mindful of where your mind goes and consciously bring it back to the present.

Before jumping headfirst into the madness of the holiday season, take this precious month of November to be grateful and make it a more meaningful time. Express gratitude and appreciation for what you have in a non-consumer way or want. Practice gratitude by noticing the positive things in life, taking time to enjoy people and the world, and giving back to others.

Be grateful for loving friends and family. Be grateful for health, even if you’re not exactly where you want to be. Be grateful for the gifts of the season in nature. Be grateful for a warm, sunny day in November or a pile of leaves for jumping. Be grateful for the rolling waves of the ocean and the flowing water of the rivers. Be grateful for our beautiful beaches. Be grateful for where you live…for me, the lively city of Newburyport.

Can you see the world with a glass half full? Sometimes it helps to take the point of view of a child or watch a little one being grateful for the simple pleasures in life. We as adults have so many preconceived notions that it takes a conscious change of mental state to truly open our minds. Take the time to retreat and reflect. Wake up in the morning thankful for the rising sun. Eat your meals mindful of where the food came from and be grateful for the farmers who harvested those vegetables. Appreciate and acknowledge all of the people who are part of your day to day life. Maybe then we can see the world with wonder and gratitude like we once did as children.

This holiday season, give time, energy, and donations to help our community. Plant the seed for giving now, and carry it throughout the year. It will add gratitude and appreciation to your life and those around you. There are so many organizations locally and nationally that need our help. Here are some ideas:
– Serve a meal at Pettengill House or Our Neighbor’s Table
– Volunteer at the MSPCA
– Fill a Thanksgiving basket for the Salvation Army
– Donate items that no longer serve you to organizations like the Community Giving TreeLeeward Light, or Goodwill
– Host a coffee with friends to raise awareness for education foundations like the Newburyport Education Foundation
– Build hope and homes for families with Habitat for Humanity
– Give blood with the Red Cross to help our hospitals keep up with extra demand

Enjoy the harvest of the season with friends, neighbors, and family. Be happy, thankful, and fill your heart with peace. This month, choose gratitude.